iconimg Saturday, August 29, 2015

Shail Desai, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, January 29, 2013
You’ve heard of Eusebio, Alfredo di Stefano, Alex and Deco playing football for their adopted countries. Now, India can have one.

Izumi Arata opened a new chapter in Indian football on Tuesday after receiving his first call-up to the national side for the friendly against Palestine on February 6. He is the first naturalised Indian in the national squad. The utility player from Pune FC — he can play wide midfield, central midfield and has even been used as striker — got his Indian citizenship last August last after surrendering his Japanese passport.

“I just happened to be on the All India Football Federation website this afternoon and saw my name as part of the squad. I could hardly believe it,” said Arata still sounding incredulous while speaking to HT over the phone.

“I was so excited and have been on the phone all day today.” http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/1/30_01_13-metro22.jpg

The 30-year-old was born to an Indian father and Japanese mother in Yamaguchi, Japan, and lost his heart to his adopted country since joining East Bengal in 2006. He switched to Mahindra United next season and joined Pune FC in 2009. “You know, I have been dreaming of donning the Indian team jersey. I knew I had the ability to do it and if you give it your best, your dreams will come true,” he said.

Different challenge

Arata knows it’s his big chance to make a mark on the national side but for now, he has a different challenge on hand — learning the words of the Indian national anthem.

“I do know the melody but need to learn all the words. My wife Shweta will play coach this time around,” he laughed. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/1/30_01_13-metro22b.jpg

Arata said he has been on the lookout for an India jersey at sport stores but could never find one. He doesn’t need to search anymore.